My dog is a better runner than I am. I’ll admit it freely. She has perfect form and looks beautiful when she runs. I, on the other hand, have a grumpy right leg that causes me to look more like I’m hobbling than running half the time. If only I could run as naturally as my dog does I would surely be a better runner.
If you’re a runner and you just got a dog (or you’ve had a dog for a few years but just never ran with them) and are interested in running with your dog, where do you get started? Just pick up the leash and take your dog out for a run? Well, you could, but I don’t advise that. There are some things to keep in mind when training your dog to run with you.
To begin with, let’s take a look at your dog. If you have a tiny little pup, chances aren’t great you’ll be able to run with your dog. They just won’t be able to keep up. If you have a dog with a pushed-in snout like a pug, they most likely won’t be able to breath well enough when running since they’re prone to breathing problems anyway. Older dogs aren’t a good choice especially if they have arthritic hips, legs, or feet. If you’re unsure if your dog would be able to comfortably handle running, just ask your veterinarian. For puppies, the age range when they’re ready to go running varies by breed, so you should definitely ask your vet to be sure.
If you have a dog that’s a good breed and age for running and you’re ready to begin, just remember to start slowly and gradually add miles. This is the same advice for any runner, really. You wouldn’t just go out and run 5 miles without any prior running experience so you shouldn’t expect your dog to do the same. Nor should you just step out your front door and start off at a fast pace.
When you head out the door, walk for a few minutes to warm up and get your dog to use the bathroom then gradually increase your pace. If your dog is having trouble keeping up, slow down and stop if necessary. It could be they just need to use the bathroom, or maybe they truly are tired and need a walk break. Go by your dog’s cues and pace for the first several times you take them out running. 10 minutes is a good start for a first-time run with your dog. If that goes well, gradually increase that amount to a distance your dog can easily handle.
Also, your dog should know some basic commands before you attempt to run with them. They should know how to walk calmly on a leash, not dragging you to every tree or squirrel in sight. If they can’t walk on a leash they’re certainly not ready to run on a leash. “Leave it” is immensely useful when walking and running with your dog, as is “wait” or “stay.” If you’re at a crosswalk waiting for a traffic light to change, “sit” can be helpful. I like to use a command to let my dog know it’s time to start running, “ready.” When I say “ready” she knows right away that’s her cue to start running.
I like to use a 4-foot leash because I feel like I don’t have control of my dog when I use anything longer than that. Your dog should not be pulling you, just as they shouldn’t pull you when you walk them. Use a corrective command if they start to pull to make sure they’re close by your side. You also don’t want your dog to charge at someone else who walks or runs by you.
Weather is also a huge factor when running with your dog. If it’s hot and humid, you shouldn’t be running with your dog. Likewise, if it’s been snowing and the areas where you’re running have been treated with salt, it’s not a good idea to take your dog there, as the salt can hurt their feet. On the subject of feet, check your dogs feet and pads when you get home to make sure there are no cuts or other damage.
If your dog is panting more heavily than normal, starts acting lethargic, vomiting, or drooling heavily, call someone to come and pick you and your dog up and take you to a vet if necessary. Dogs can experience heatstroke and overexertion just like humans. Don’t ignore the warning signs and don’t just give your dog a ton of water hoping that will be enough. Again, like humans, dogs can also drink too much water and this can be detrimental.
Running with your dog can be a fun way to add some variety to your runs. My dog is a wonderful running partner in that she never complains about how hard it is; in fact she never complains about anything ever. She’s always happy and excited to be outside and the sheer joy she experiences when running is palpable. If only I could be more like my dog!
How many of you run with your dog or have been considering running with your dog? What kind of dog do you have? Any and all comments are appreciated!